Crime has always been a worry those venturing south of the San Diego-Tijuana border but never so much as now, USA Today reports. Violence, killings, and kidnappings have reached frightening new levels in Tijuana over the last two years, exposing the weaknesses of police and threatening the tourism and trade that underpin the economy on both sides of the border. “What affects one side affects the other. We’re literally one region with a fence down the middle,” says San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, a former chief of police. Tijuana, population 1.2 million, saw one slaying a day in 2006 and roughly two kidnappings a week.
Thirty victims were police officers, including three found decapitated. Such a slaughter of officers would be shocking for a U.S. city, Sanders says. Kidnapping for ransom is nearly non-existent in the U.S.; in Tijuana, there were close to 100 reported incidents of it last year. So far, crime hasn’t spiked on the San Diego side of the border. That doesn’t mean the U.S. side isn’t affected. San Diego police have set up an office in a trailer at the border to take crime reports from U.S. citizens crossing back, including shakedowns for bribes by Mexican police. Experts on both sides of the border believe the number of people crossing to work or spend money has declined because of the fear of crime.